Uh oh! The wife and friends of Roberto Bolaño — whose best-known novels focused in large part on the fabrications of willfully esoteric writers — are accusing the dead Chilean author of fabricating parts of his own biography. How Archimboldian!
Beach, a four-page, single-sentence narrative published shortly after the novelist’s death in 2003, begins: “I gave up heroin and went back to my town and started on the methadone treatment administered me at the clinic ….” But his widow, Carolina López, with whom he was separated when he died, calls reports of his heroin use “inaccurate,” as have many European critics who say Bolaño’s drug habit was an invention that’s been amplified by American critics and publishers to make him better fit the image of a literary outlaw, according to the Times. Also, his assertion that he was in Chile in 1973 supporting the Socialist government against a coup from Augusto Pinochet, and that he was jailed but managed to escape, are being refuted by his friends who say he was in Mexico the whole time.
Given that so much of Bolaño’s fiction, including The Savage Detectives and two fifths of the 900-page 2666, dealt with the aliases, faked deaths, and distorted histories of authors, we’d probably be disappointed if part of his own history weren’t made up. And it’s not like the implication that it wasn’t caused by opiate abuse make his harrowing death from liver failure any less glamorous. As long as he never claimed that someone was tossing him heroin over a concentration-camp fence, we’re happily willing to let this particular controversy slide.